There was plenty of hype going into UFC 228’s main event this past Saturday. Can Darren Till be the next superstar? Can he take down a dominant champion in Tyron Woodley, who’s as good as they come?
Many have tried before Till. Many have failed. The list of incredible fighters that fought against Woodley in failing efforts includes Carlos Condit, Stephen Thompson, Robbie Lawler and Demian Maia. It was a tall task in front of a young Englishman who has risen through the ranks of the stacked welterweight division in a storm. The hype was there.
Very few fighters have had as much hype as Till while rising up. The only person that definitely had more buzz surrounding him was Conor McGregor, and we all know that there is no shame placing behind McGregor on such a list. The hype for Till was well deserved, too. He was able to take out Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a heartbeat. In a way, he was able to outstrike a world-class technician in Thompson.
So, when Till was coming into the fight against Woodley, it was only right for many fans to believe that he could take out Woodley. The confidence in the young man was unparalleled, and when Till talked, fans believed.
However, like those before him, Till fell short. After being rocked on the feet by Woodley and taking some massive elbows on the ground, Till was submitted late in the second round. It was almost shocking, and it’s most certainly a reminder of how good Woodley really is. We all knew deep down that he was powerful, fast and ruthless, but it seemed like we had forgotten all of this. All the hate heaped onto the champion by the fans seemed to overshadow the facts. Woodley did take a year off prior to the fight, too, and yet showed up in possibly the best form of his life.
Don’t let the loss define Till, though. After stating that he did not deserve a title shot after his fight against Thompson, Till came into this fight confident and made weight easily. He went out there and put up a valiant fight against one of the best fighters in the world. Till is only 25 years old. He will likely be back better than ever in his next fight. The loss, if taken well, could push him toward the next level.
However, the most notable takeaway from this fight is that it shows just how truly difficult this sport really is. Till had everything going for him. He had the momentum, personality, skills, fan support and confidence. Meanwhile, Woodley was in a tough spot where he had to come off a long layoff and face a rising star who is young and hungry for the belt. We don’t realize how difficult it is to be in such spot.
Surely you have heard the idea that “the toughest thing is to stay on top of the sport as the champion after getting there.” It really is true. We’ve seen countless champions, some of the greatest of all time, fall to young up-and-coming challengers who are bringing storms with them. José Aldo had the aforementioned McGregor. Anderson Silva had Chris Weidman. Dominick Cruz had Cody Garbrandt. The list goes on and on. Momentum is a scary thing. It’s extremely hard to stop, which makes the win for Woodley an even greater accomplishment.
MMA is easily one of the most difficult sports out there. In no other sport, besides maybe boxing, do you constantly have young and hungry superstars aiming at the target on your back. It takes a lot to be a champion and even more to stay the champion for years. Till will be back with a vengeance, ready to take on the world, but proper credit should be given to Woodley and his ability to overcome the difficulty of this brutal sport.